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Bayern pick up the pieces after ‘bitter’ Champions League defeat


Munich (Germany) (AFP) – There were 70,000 at the Allianz Arena on Tuesday, but you could have heard a pin drop among home Bayern Munich fans when Villarreal equalised with two minutes left to dump the Germans out of the Champions League.

When they were paired with Spanish side Villarreal in last month’s quarter-finals draw, Bayern sports director Hasan Salihamidzic chuckled gleefully, “It’s very manageable”.

Yet it was Villarreal coach Unai Emery left leaping with joy on the sidelines in Munich after Samuel Chukwueze chipped in with two minutes left to snatch a 1-1 second leg draw and seal a 2-1 aggregate win.

The Villarreal squad celebrated in front of their delirious travelling fans, while stunned Bayern supporters trudged home leaving their team to process a shock elimination.

– ‘Extreme’ disappointment –

The Germans dominated for long stretches of Tuesday’s home leg and were rewarded when Robert Lewandowski gave them a second-half lead before Villarreal converted their only clear chance. 

Thomas Mueller, usually a bubbly chatterbox, struggled to find the words to sum up the disappointment.  

“It’s extreme,” he admitted, having blown a golden chance after heading agonisingly wide with 19 minutes left.

“Maybe we must blame ourselves for needing to get one more goal.”

Chukwueze’s equaliser put the over-joyed Spaniards in the Champions League semi-finals for the first time in 16 years.

“It’s very bitter. The semi-finals are always the minimum goal for Bayern Munich,” said head coach Julian Nagelsmann.

“The first leg was the key,” where Bayern lost 1-0. “We didn’t play well there and that’s where we lost the tie.”

The 34-year-old was blunt – “it’s not good enough” – when asked to rate his first season in charge.

He refused to blame their exit on uncertainty within the squad with key stars waiting to be offered extended contracts.

Mueller, Lewandowski, Serge Gnabry and club captain Manuel Neuer are out of contract in 2023.

The lack of urgency among Bayern’s bosses to secure their commitment sparked speculation of a clean out.

It also fuelled rumours that Lewandowski, who chalked up his 13th Champions League goal this season, could leave with Barcelona touted as one possible destination.

Bowing out in last year’s quarter-finals to French giants Paris Saint Germain was unfortunate, but failing to beat Villarreal, presently seventh in the Spanish league, is well short of their expectations.

– Wounded pride –

Missing out on the semi-finals costs Bayern a bonus of 12.5 million euros ($13.5 million), but hurts their pride as much as their finances.

They are poised to claim a tenth straight Bundesliga title, holding a nine-point lead with five games left, but it’s a consolation prize by Bayern’s lofty standards.

It is the only silverware they can win having exited the German Cup last October after a freak 5-0 mauling at Moenchengladbach.

Bayern paid RB Leipzig 20 million euros to sign Nagelsmann, one of Germany’s brightest coaching talents.

Yet the 34-year-old knows Tuesday’s Champions League exit means his future at the club is not guaranteed.

“I don’t know what’s in store for me, besides we have Bielefeld to worry about next in the league,” he said glumly.

“I’m not afraid, there are worse things.”

His boss, Bayern CEO Oliver Khan, wore a steely expression while insisting “we won’t burst into tears, we’ll attack again next year in the Champions League”.

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